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Why Spruce Lake?

April 12, 2022 | Sam Choi

This year’s Spruce Lake trip is a bit different from previous years.  First off, I can’t believe we have not been to Spruce Lake since October of 2019.  Also, we will be going in the Spring instead of the Fall which is a change from previous years.  I can only recall one other year we went in the Spring since I have been going on this trip (My first trip being way back in 2007).  We will only be taking the 7th and 8th grade who have little to no prior Spruce Lake experience.  However, as they say, more things change, more they stay the same.  

  • Students will still marvel at the amount of stars that are visible at night.  
  • They will wonder why it seems like we are eating all the time.  
  • My flashlight will not be bright enough.
  • Students will try to stay up late and wonder why they are so tired in the morning.  

I also like the fact that Spruce Lake is a common thread that binds our student community, past and present.  We have siblings that are separated by years but share a bond over their experience on Jacob’s Ladder.  

Here is something I wrote a couple years ago but feel it is still relevant today:


Or for that matter, why have an outdoor, overnight field trip at all? 

Having attended traditional public schools my whole life, this is a question I could envision myself asking when I was younger.

Other questions that would have popped into my head:

  • Are they really learning anything?
  • Couldn’t they use this time to do more educational things?
  • Isn’t this trip just an excuse to play?

I don’t know if anyone has these questions or if this blog post addresses or answers any of them, but I will write what I know.

Being Present

If you are like me, technology is a part of your life.  Smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc are all wonderful tools and capable of amazing things.  However, it is also able to draw us away from being present and fully engaged.  This is probably doubly true for our middle schoolers who have grown up with all this technology.  So by disconnecting them from the “digital world, we are challenging them and teaching them to be present in this one.

Being Present with Others

The climbing wall, the challenge course and the high ropes course are just a few of the times students will have the opportunity to help and encourage one another.  Besides being present in the now, we want our students to be present with others.  We want them to understand that to be a part of a community requires engagement with everyone involved.  The different courses and “games” presented by Spruce Lake give our students this opportunity.  One of my fondest memories of this trip is seeing our students tackle the high ropes course and overcome their fears and anxiousness with help of their classmates.

Being Present with Others and with God

Spruce Lake gives our students (and our chaperones) the chance to step away from our day to day urban setting and enjoy nature.  This goes beyond just appreciating the flora and fauna of the Poconos.  It involves learning about how to take care of the environment and how as humans and especially as christians we are called to be caretakers of God’s creation.  It involves appreciating the presence of God in the beauty of the sunset and in the amazing clarity of the night sky.  It involves being present with others and with God.

Sam Choi

Teacher, Grade 8; Science, History, and Ethics, Sixth to Eighth Grades

Mr. Choi has been teaching for over twenty years. Prior to Mustard Seed, Mr. Choi taught at a high school and a middle school for students with language based learning differences. He has also taught at an after school tutoring center and a standardized test prep center.

Over his career, Mr. Choi has taught high school Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Computer Programming, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and US and European History. He has also taught middle school PE, Health, Earth Science, Physical Science, Life Science, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, World History and Language Arts, as well as Ethics, Civics, Economics, Christian Studies and Geography.

Mr. Choi enjoys running, watching movies, and cheering for the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs; he has been an avid fan of these teams since 1980.
He is married to Abby Hall Choi and is the father of Noah (MSS Class of 2027) and Jacob (MSS class of 2030).

Mr. Choi was born in Pusan, South Korea, and emigrated to the United States in 1980 with his parents and older brother and sister. He first lived in Kansas City, Kansas and then moved to San Diego, California in 1986. In 2007, Mr. Choi moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. He quickly discovered that living in Southern California does not equip one to survive anywhere outside of Southern California.

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